Quebec’s provincial hearings into the Energy East pipeline proposal began Monday, after being delayed about 15 minutes by singing and chanting protesters who say the project would be bad for the environment.

Energy East would bring a million barrels per day of crude oil from Alberta and Saskatchewan through an existing pipeline to Montreal, and on to a refinery in Saint John, N.B., through 650 kilometres of new pipe.

TransCanada, the company behind the $15.7-billion project, argued that its plan is much safer and more environmentally friendly than the alternative: transporting oil by rail.

Louis Bergeron, Energy East's vice-president for New Brunswick and Quebec, also said the project “will bring a major reduction of foreign imports of oil into refineries in Eastern Canada,” including those in Quebec.

Conservative MP Gerard Deltell made similar arguments on his Facebook page, where wrote that there are already approximately 2,000 km of pipelines already in Quebec, including nine that cross the St. Lawrence River.

“Did we ever see a black tide?” he wrote in French, while pointing out that one of the pipelines dates all the way back to 1941.

Deltell pointed out that the oil Quebec currently uses often comes by boat from foreign countries. “Why send our billions of dollars overseas when they could stay here in Canada?” he wrote, adding that the project will create 3,000 jobs in Quebec alone.

Among those who have stood against the pipeline is Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, who has said he has concerns about the cost of an oil spill.

Coderre said the pipeline company needs to “redo their homework.”

Coderre and Quebec’s Liberal government have faced anger from those who say they are interfering with federal jurisdiction.

Quebec has promised that the hearings will look at both environmental and economic impacts.

They are expected to wrap up in November.

With a report from CTV News national correspondent Genevieve Beauchemin